Discussion: On Copyright

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  • Kyle Matthews,

    The further away you get from the inception of a creative piece (in the main), the less relevant it usually is to its cultural environment.

    I think any decent English teacher (not my strong subject) could look at Shakespeare, Dickens, heck, a lot of classical literature and say that it's still very relevant to the current cultural environment.

    And surely if there's a 'social good' argument for limiting the length of copyright, it's because the content _is_ relevant to the time it's released from copyright. If it has no relevancy, what's the point of releasing it?

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    Without reinvigorating the public domain, the whole thing goes rancid and we enter a dark age whre no one can create anything. . .

    If nothing else, that might go some way towards explaining why Rancid sound so much like The Clash.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    <i>artificially maintain the price</i>

    What does `artificial' actually mean here? After all, all prices are essentially artificial -- or rather, what society agrees will be the price, via the market or other mechanism.

    This is what I really, really dislike about the Lessig/Doctorow axis -- the slipping in of moral/subjective claims as objective fact.

    Like, imagine it was ridiculously easy to pinch apples, thus leading to a cratering in the price of apples. Nobody would claim that anti-theft measures were artificially inflating the price of apples. They might claim that draconian anti-apple theft measures were stupid, or out of proportion to the threat, or infringements on civil liberties, or that apple-owners should have to pay the cost of protecting their own property, not the state, or --.

    But not that apple prices were being unfairly manipulated, because people know that taking apples is against the rules, whereas people don't feel, on the same level, that copyright infringement is against the rules.

    Also, I'm pretty sure you're wrong about the comparative cost to infringe pre-internet -- how much would it actually cost to set up a cheap printing press and churn out bootleg whatever -- see: China.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    Jeebus, I need to remember that <i> doesn't work. I apologise, and pretend there's italics, would you.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Harris,

    I don't know that anybody assume that widespread copying won't be an issue anymore (though there's the question of how much actual harm it does them), but some people seem to devote a lot of energy to trying to stop it entirely and asking for bigger and more disproportionate sticks to try to stop the tide while making as many enemies as possible in the process.

    Yep, that's a good description of the RIAA for the last 10 years.

    They might be better to use those resources to come up with bright business (or perhaps legal) models to use the situation to their advantage (and no, I don't what that might be).

    Cory Doctorow comes to mind. He writes his books, publishes them through a with-it publisher (Tor Books) and simultaneously puts them up on his website under a Creative Commons licence knowing that people will download and share them (hell, he encourages it!). He also explains his reasoning.

    Radiohead and others are doing it as well.

    Waikanae • Since Jul 2008 • 1343 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    Um, you might find that Tor is a better site to look at for Tor's forward movingness on publishing, especially the free download promo ebooks.

    You can also look at Making Light (PNH (head editor at Tor) & TNH and various other fannish types), especially their discussions on copyright and fan fiction.

    Note that neither PNH nor TNH think that publishing is dead, at all, or that they're `just middlemen' (esp. not TNH, for obvious reasons!) I'm pretty sure there's a post somewhere about what will publishing be like in the 21st century, but I can't be bothered looking.

    However, Doctorow's a crap model, because his books tend to be Hugo-nominated bestsellers written by a Locus award winning fan, who's got huge amounts of social capital behind him, who is very well tied into a particular set of SF/FLOSS networks, and has a very interdisciplinary practice.

    Most tech-savvy SF authors couldn't be Cory Doctorow, let alone 60-y.o children's authors.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Harris,

    I think any decent English teacher (not my strong subject) could look at Shakespeare, Dickens, heck, a lot of classical literature and say that it's still very relevant to the current cultural environment.

    So Shakespeare was the only playwright of his day? Dickens, the only novelist of his? I said "in the main" because there are always exceptions, but it was pointed out up-thread that exceptions like Rowling (and Dickens was bigger in his day than Rowling in hers) don't count. What about all the other writers and playwrights - is their work still relevant? Or is it a product of it's time and doomed to remain so?

    And surely if there's a 'social good' argument for limiting the length of copyright, it's because the content _is_ relevant to the time it's released from copyright. If it has no relevancy, what's the point of releasing it?

    Sorry? That really doesn't make sense to me. If there's an argument for limiting copyright it's because the content is relevant to the time it was _created_, and the further you get from that time, the less relevant is will be.

    If an author aged 20 releases a stunning new book which has a huge impact on society, then lives to 103, that's 83+50 years before anyone can do more than comment on it. By which time, all the people who were moved by it and wanted to build on it are probably dead and the current culture 133 years after it was written probably couldn't care less. If copyright was limited to 50 years from date of creation, the book would enter the public domain within living memory, while it's still relevant to the people it affected.

    Waikanae • Since Jul 2008 • 1343 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Harris,

    Note that neither PNH nor TNH think that publishing is dead, at all, or that they're `just middlemen' (esp. not TNH, for obvious reasons!) I'm pretty sure there's a post somewhere about what will publishing be like in the 21st century, but I can't be bothered looking.

    I don't think publishing is dead either, but it has to radically change its business model. Both Patrick and Theresa are superb editors - they can help an author trim away the dross and get to the gold. The value-add services publishers can offer to both the author and the reader are going to become the most important part of their business, instead of just a process onthe road to putting out product. The point is that the author doesn't need the publisher like they used to, as it's not the only avenue to the audience. If anything, this puts more power in the hands of the author.

    However, Doctorow's a crap model, because his books tend to be Hugo-nominated bestsellers written by a Locus award winning fan, who's got huge amounts of social capital behind him, who is very well tied into a particular set of SF/FLOSS networks, and has a very interdisciplinary practice.

    I call "bullshit" on that. Cory's a crap model because he's successful?? WTF? He wrote before he got his first Locus or Hugo nomination, he's been publishing his books under Creative Commons since the first one, and he wasn't born plugged into a set of networks - he did all that himself. He worked hard, had vision and pioneered a system. He worked for his success, and he's paved the way for others.

    The biggest problem for most creators is not people infringing their copyrights - it's people actually noticing they exist. The net offers a way out of obscurity and in a manner that you can (generally) control, as a creator.

    Most tech-savvy SF authors couldn't be Cory Doctorow, let alone 60-y.o children's authors.

    And most DIY handymen can't build a complete house. And most people who love cooking will never work in a restaurant. So what?

    You don't need to be Cory Doctorow - you just need to learn from his experience.

    Waikanae • Since Jul 2008 • 1343 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    A *lot* of the other writers from other eras are still relevant. For instance, John Milton inspired Phillip Pullman, and he wrote probably one of the best trilogies over the past decade (way better than anything J. K. Rowling has written IMHO.

    Keir Leslie mentioned the empathy & inspiration that sci-fic/fan writers have for earlier Sf/f writers and how we consciously acknowledge them by using & developing some of their concepts (while writing otherwise new stories.) Many of those works predate my birth-

    I really *cannot* understand your desire to 'want(ed) to build on' someone else's work: be inspired by it, great -there's so many writers who do this. But they/we create something new: we dont just steal someone else's characters/storyline - especially when & while copyright holds-

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    If an author aged 20 releases a stunning new book which has a huge impact on society, then lives to 103, that's 83+50 years before anyone can do more than comment on it.

    This is nonsense -- look at Modern art and observe people using and reusing ideas without needing to do anything that breaks copyright.

    You don't need to be Cory Doctorow

    No, to make the Doctorow model work, you need to be Cory Doctorow. And not an inch to the side, either -- John Scalzi couldn't do it, Charles Stross couldn't do it, Ken MacLeod certainly couldn't. I mean, I've no idea about Doctorow's finances etc, but being an SF author is probably the third most significant activity he engages in -- Boing Boing, free culture advocacy, and then SF authoring.

    He gets huge amounts of publicity via Boing Bong, he does high-profile copyright work, he networks and he writes books. Most authors can only expect to be very good at writing books; telling them to be like Doctorow is pointless. He took the Californian Ideology and made it work for himself; very few people can do that.

    And suddenly I see why I dislike the copyfight people -- it's the good ol' Californian Ideology in full roar.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • Bob Munro,

    I work in the business of selling visual art. The ubiquitous nature of digital and camera/cell phones is increasing the problems of how to protect the artist’s copyright.

    Unauthorised photography is essentially stealing an image that is for sale and artists get quite concerned about it.

    How do you try and enforce the principle on behalf of the artist, versus the customer is always right philosophy of retailing? Several years ago this was an occasional problem dealt with by a polite message that was usually respected.

    Nowadays the practice is so widespread I think we have been pretty much defeated on it. As nicely as you try and explain it, some people will take offence at the idea that they should be restricted in any way about their image capturing.

    Christchurch • Since Aug 2007 • 418 posts Report Reply

  • robbery,

    Because part of its appeal is its timeliness. The further away you get from the inception of a creative piece (in the main), the less relevant it usually is to its cultural environment.

    by lose I mean stripped of its legal right to hold value or be owned.
    you and your relatives can own land for eternity, yet IP is stripped of its worth to the creator and his designated inheritors after a certain time

    new zealand • Since May 2007 • 1882 posts Report Reply

  • robbery,

    Culture is not property

    why?
    just cos society deems it to be relevant to them does that give them the right to strip the creator and owner of a work of its value?
    isn't that communism for intellectual property and capitalism for everything else?
    is consistency too much too ask for?

    new zealand • Since May 2007 • 1882 posts Report Reply

  • robbery,

    but it was pointed out up-thread that exceptions like Rowling (and Dickens was bigger in his day than Rowling in hers) don't count.

    I'm not sure what you're getting at with your intepretation of my comment but I meant that if you want to infer all writers are rich from the jk rowlings example of all musicians are rich an decadent based on some hip hop videos you''re falling for the hype. those people are the .0000000001 % and yay for them, but its not real life for creatives.

    new zealand • Since May 2007 • 1882 posts Report Reply

  • robbery,

    If an author aged 20 releases a stunning new book which has a huge impact on society, then lives to 103, that's 83+50 years before anyone can do more than comment on it.

    that's nice but why do you think that it is societies right to strip a citizen of their possessions in a non communist society. why in a democracy are capitalism rules only for non IP.

    new zealand • Since May 2007 • 1882 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Harris,

    @robbery

    that's nice but why do you think that it is societies right to strip a citizen of their possessions in a non communist society. why in a democracy are capitalism rules only for non IP.

    Copyright is a right granted by society for a limited time. Initially, it was 14 years and it has gradually crept up to life +50 in N and more elsewhere, but the concept has always been that there is a limit. Every right comes with obligations. You ask "why" when I say that culture is not property and the reason is that society says so through its laws. Those laws that grant you copyright over your creation also set limits on it, for the benefit of society as a whole. We live in societies for mutual benefit. This is one of the prices of gaining those benefits, like rode rules or taxes.

    I'm not sure what you're getting at with your intepretation of my comment but I meant that if you want to infer all writers are rich from the jk rowlings example of all musicians are rich an decadent based on some hip hop videos you''re falling for the hype. those people are the .0000000001 % and yay for them, but its not real life for creatives.

    Which was my point to Islander way back before she was outed. I agree that they are the exceptions, but that is the nature of the business you have chosen. Dickens was just as much an exception. We remember him and Trollope and a couple of dozen more from that era, but does anyone seriously think they were the only writers writing? Where are the hundreds of other creatives from the Victorian age? Gone, their contributions lost, forgotten, and not enriching the world one bit.

    You seem to think I'm against all copyright. I'm not. But I am against extending it to ridiculous lengths (and I think we're already past that) in order that a few corporations may profit for a few more years. And that is seriously what it's about. I have no argument with creators about getting paid. I like getting paid myself.

    If you want to pick a fight about the struggling artist, pick it with the publishers. They're the ones who take the lion's share of the profits, leaving only 10% for the creator (out of which we have to pay for an agent, supplies etc) if you've got a name and a good deal. Feel pity for those who have to sell all their rights up front, because they need the money.

    The system is rotten, but it doesn't get better by reinforcing the old patterns.

    Waikanae • Since Jul 2008 • 1343 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Harris,

    Oh crap:
    "life +50 in NZ"
    "road rules"
    [sigh]

    Waikanae • Since Jul 2008 • 1343 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Harris,

    @Islander

    I really *cannot* understand your desire to 'want(ed) to build on' someone else's work: be inspired by it, great -there's so many writers who do this. But they/we create something new: we dont just steal someone else's characters/storyline - especially when & while copyright holds-

    I don't want to build on your work, or anyone's necessarily, but it is a right my grandfather had and his, and it's being whittled away by greedy corporations who don't give a wobbly damn for the creators - they just want as much money out of it. I want the ability to build on existing works restored to me and my descendants (figuratively - I don't think my cats care about copyright - everything belongs to them anyway) should an occasion arise where it's worthwhile.

    That's why I support the Creative Commons concept. It doesn't replace copyright; on the contrary, it relies on copyright as it's foundation. One can't give permission to use something one has no control over.

    I don't want to "steal" your work either. If I was to use your character in a story, I'd want to do it with your permission and that might involve a payment or a profit-sharing deal while, as you say, copyright holds. And you never know, I might do something wonderful with it that rekindles interest in your work and transcends it into something anew generation wants to be part of. And if not me, then someone else.

    What I don't want to see is that work locked away where no-one can get at it because you're worried that it somehow diminishes you for someone to use your work as a starting point.

    You complained that you don't get anything like the level of income that you think you deserve, and yet you support the system that makes that the case. That's what I *cannot* understand, Keri.

    Waikanae • Since Jul 2008 • 1343 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    Mark H - without even thinking very much, I can bring to mind over two hundred Victorian writers who a lot of people know, respect, and acknowledge. Possibly you havent included the non-fiction writers, the naturalists, the fisher authors? Among many many others?

    While publishers tend to take 40/45% of the profit from published books, they also put up the majority of finance to make a book (if we exclude the fact that the writer has generally put in an enormous amount of unpaid work & time.) The remaining 50-45% of profit goes to distributors and booksellers - and THAT is where the attention of owrking writers should be drawn to (not parameters of copyright.)

    May I add I love booksellers? But not ever quite so much since I learned their take?

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Harris,

    No, to make the Doctorow model work, you need to be Cory Doctorow. And not an inch to the side, either -- John Scalzi couldn't do it, Charles Stross couldn't do it, Ken MacLeod certainly couldn't. <quote>

    You might be surprised at some of Charlie Stross' thinking on this.

    <quote>I mean, I've no idea about Doctorow's finances etc, but being an SF author is probably the third most significant activity he engages in -- Boing Boing, free culture advocacy, and then SF authoring.

    You're right, you have no idea and neither do I, but I've learned that assuming makes an ass of u and me :-p

    He gets huge amounts of publicity via Boing Bong, he does high-profile copyright work, he networks and he writes books. Most authors can only expect to be very good at writing books; telling them to be like Doctorow is pointless. He took the Californian Ideology and made it work for himself; very few people can do that.

    Keir, he creates that publicity by the work that he does. Any writer who 'only writes books' is doomed to obscurity. You've got to market them to a publisher, do the sales tours, speak at conferences etc. - it's all part of the job. You've also got to be a researcher, network with useful people who have knowledge that you lack. You seem to think it all comes to him on a plate. I don't think so - I think he works bloody hard.

    No one is just a writer. We all have multi-faceted lives where we are different things at different moments and to different people. It's called being human where I come from.

    And suddenly I see why I dislike the copyfight people -- it's the good ol' Californian Ideology in full roar.

    Apart from the fact Cory's Canadian and damn proud of it, and that he lives in London, that's just plain stupid prejudice. And if that's where you're going, I'm disengaging from you.

    Fun while it lasted, but I won't be responding to you any more, Keir, on this topic.

    Waikanae • Since Jul 2008 • 1343 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    Whoa whoa Mark H -I didnt *complain* about the level of income I get: I stated that I earn less than the average wage. And I dont *expect* to *deserve* anything - except what copyrights I have, earn-

    the system we have currently isnt exaxtly fair for writers et al but it is a damn sight better that Cory's version.

    I am a writer who hasnt been 'doomed to obscurity' by *only *writing books. And I can think of several others right here in Aotearoa who dont/wont travel your suggested path of marketing, conferences, sales tours - and still keep writing, still get published...

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    To be sure, Islander.
    But even so, most of those cases -- yourself included, I think -- will be people whose lifestyle or personality are distinctive enough to be a marketable selling point for a new work, with or without the physical presence of the writer in the marketing process. (Not saying at all that this is necessarily a deliberate strategy, of course.) So Mark is right to that extent -- it matters that you do recognisable things *other* than write.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1940 posts Report Reply

  • robbery,

    Those laws that grant you copyright over your creation also set limits on it, for the benefit of society as a whole. We live in societies for mutual benefit. This is one of the prices of gaining those benefits, like rode rules or taxes.

    you didn't answer my question mark.
    Why one set of rules for Intellectual property people and another set for everyone else?
    you must live in a different society to me cos people run stores and business purely for personal profit all across western civilization and they keep that money for themselves, and pass it on to their families etc, straight up business.
    Creatives on the other hand are allowed to work hard at their skill but have to hand over rights to it after a pre determined time. Why is it different. is it purely because society 'likes' what they do so want to take it and if so can we apply that attitude to other industries we like. perhaps oil resources, land etc. I'm up for that if we all work under the same rules. I could do with some land and oil resources in exchange for free access to the fruits of my efforts.

    new zealand • Since May 2007 • 1882 posts Report Reply

  • Don Christie,

    robbery, I've been away, but I'll answer your question.

    ...because, "Intellectual Property" is simply and expression of ideas. We have ideas all the time, probably hundreds a day. Writing those ideas down is a pretty trivial task (whether in book or computer code form). The idea that the action of writing out an idea should somehow exclude everyone else having a similar thought and acting upon it is not only repugnant, it is stupid.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1645 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Harris,

    Why one set of rules for Intellectual property people and another set for everyone else?

    There's only a contradiction if you regard copyright as a property, rather than a licence to control and benefit. Which you appear to do.

    Otherwise, there are plenty of examples of separate goups within society having different rules applied to them. Lawyers have regulations about what they can do, which are enforced by law. Football referees have no laws governing them. There's no contradiction because they fulfil different roles in society.

    I'm not denying your right to profit from your work. Copyright allows that and I'm okay with it. I don't think you have the right to have it forever, is all.

    What can't you see? Copyright only comes to you through an act of law, and that law places limits on the term.

    Waikanae • Since Jul 2008 • 1343 posts Report Reply

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